The Imran Khan government’s move to strengthen its hold over Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK), through a council which had been abolished by former premier Nawaz Sharif’s party two years ago, was thwarted.
Islamabad had set up the PoJK Council under PoJK’s Interim Constitution Act 1974, “to serve as a bridge” between the federal and the provincial governments, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.
The council, headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan as chairperson, was de facto government of the PoJK.
The federal government had ensured that the council’s financial and administrative powers were above scrutiny.
The council was reportedly, “a hub of unchecked corruption and political wheeling and dealing ahead of every election in PoJK”.
Acting on behalf of the federal government, the council “enjoyed administrative control” of crucial departments like Inland Revenue, Accountant General’s Office and the Directorate General of Audit.
It would retain 20 per cent of the income tax generated from PoJK as well as some other funds to meet the administrative expenditures of its inflated secretariat in Islamabad and some other miscellaneous heads, and also to carry out development activities in Pakistan and PoJK, Dawn reported.
However in June 2018, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) through the 13th amendment of the PoJK constitution abolished the council’s “administrative and financial powers in accordance with its election manifesto and popular public demands”.
PML-N at the time dominated both the PoJK Legislative Assembly and the Council.
“Interestingly, according to a recent statement, revenue collection had substantially increased in the wake of the 13th amendment, even though the COVID-19 pandemic and an earthquake in the southern districts had affected business activities,” in PoJK last year.
Quoting its sources, the Dawn reported that “some elements in the federal government were hell-bent upon revival of the council’s fiscal and administrative powers through the proposed 14th amendment”.
On Thursday (16 July), in a press release issued by Raja Muhammad Wasim, press secretary to PoK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, said a cabinet meeting was held in Muzaffarabad on Wednesday (15 July) under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Haider where a threadbare discussion was held on the draft of amendments, received from the federal ministries of law and Kashmir affairs on 22 June, among other things.
Describing it as an “extraordinary meeting”, the statement said the PoJK cabinet has unanimously agreed to not agree with the draft of constitutional amendments, formulated jointly by the federal ministries of law and Kashmir affairs.
The press release did not specify the draft proposals received from Islamabad.
“It’s the unanimous opinion of the (PoJK) cabinet that the ideological relationship of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan is a reflection of the eternal wishes of the Kashmiri people. This does not belong to any individual, political party or government but is a mutual possession of the people living on both sides of the state. And this affiliation is completely in accord with the vision of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” the press release said.
In view of Indian government’s reorganization of the Jammu and Kashmir state, “steps should be taken (by Islamabad) with mutual consultation (with the PoJK government) to further empower the government to represent the wishes of the Kashmiris on both sides”, the statement said.